Health & Science
Strict Chinese lecturer saves Kenyan student from Coronavirus epicenter
A Kenyan student studying in China is immensely grateful to his professor for forcing him to fly to Kenya earlier than he had planned.
Victor Onjolo, 26, who is enrolled at the Chinese Academy of Science in Wuhan, arrived in Kenya 24 hours before a ban was imposed on local travel in the city on January 24.
The master’s student in plant molecular and systematic science left Wuhan on January 22 at the insistence of his supervisor, Guang Wang Hu.
He had initially planned to travel today, which would have seen him stuck in China indefinitely.
Narrating his lucky escape, Mr Onjolo said he was first screened for coronavirus infection at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport and again before entering Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, where he had a seven-hour layover before taking a connecting flight to Ethiopia.
On arrival in Ethiopia, Onjolo said he was surprised to note that no screening was being done. He then flew to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on January 23 to find no screening at the home airport as well.
“When we arrived in Kenya, they inspected our polio certificates then Chinese nationals were set aside and led away by airport officials, while the rest of us were cleared,” said Onjolo.
Onjolo has been in constant communication with his 85 Kenyan friends in Wuhan universities since he returned home. The kenyan students at Wuhan Botanical Garden, Huazhong University of Science and Technology and Wuhan Institute of Virology interact using WeChat social platform, which is popular in China.
At his university in Wuhan, students have been prohibited from congregating in groups of more than two people.
“My friends are now confined in their rooms and rely on the school to organise how they will access food because only few shops remain open and transport is restricted,” said Onjolo.
According to Onjolo, the students are required to pick two colleagues to go out and buy provisions for the rest.
“Kenyan students are really complaining on WeChat because of what they term lack of basic needs. Most are now forced to rely on noodles because they cannot go out and source for Kenyan cuisine, which is less spicy compared to Chinese food,” added Onjolo.
Although Onjolo’s university is not close to Huibei market, which was ground zero for the deadly coronavirus that has already claimed more than 130 lives, an alert was issued to facilitate precautionary measures.
The alert issued one week before Onjolo left Wuhan instructed residents to avoid sea food, wear masks, avoid crowded places and observe thorough and regular washing of hands as a precautionary method.
Onjolo and two of his friends who were able to escape Wuhan before the travel ban have since been instructed to hold off on travelling back to China until official communication is issued to that effect.
Although his friends and family were relieved that he had been screened and cleared to travel, Onjolo is still facing stigmatisation from those afraid of contracting the deadly virus from him.
“Some friends actually told me to wait for 14 days to lapse to ensure it is safe to meet and catch up,” said Onjolo.
He is, however, optimistic that he is free of the virus because seven days have elapsed and no symptoms have manifested.